23 March 2012

NSCSO. Questions, questions.

Bangalore: possibly at rush hour.
At the recent business case briefings for staff in scope for the New Support and Customer Service Organisation (NSCSO) project, a number of questions were asked as follows:
Staff terms and conditions 
Mr Mustard has commented in red.

Q1. Under which organisation’s terms and conditions would a potential redundancy be treated?
A1. The terms and conditions of employment that you have at the council are fully protected for one year. However the organisation making the redundancy would be the new provider, and therefore it would follow its policy in determining the case. A new employer is likely only to offer the statutory minimum as a transferring employee has not built up any goodwill or reason to be treated generously.

Q2. Will the council’s redundancy package go with us when we transfer under the current terms and conditions?
A2. Yes. The council’s redundancy package is set out in the ‘Managing Organisational Change Policy’ which is part of the employee handbook which will transfer with you.  Should the new employer wish to change this policy at any time following transfer it will need to consult the recognised unions. "Consult" does not necessarily mean "take any notice of".

Q3. Does the fact that TUPE regulations are protected for a year, prevent the successful organisation from making redundancies within that timeframe?
A3. No it doesn’t. Under the TUPE Regulations 2006, a dismissal (which includes redundancy), can only be made in the first year post-transfer if there is an economic, technical or organisational (ETO) reason to do so.  Any activity of this kind would need to be consulted upon prior to the change and, if a known change at point of transfer, consulted upon as part of the measures. You have no job security.
Should there be a need for a post to be made redundant, there will be greater opportunity for redeployment in BT or Capita because they are much larger national organisations than the council. Please. The council has over 3000 employees so don't pretend this is some sort of benefit you are generously offering to the staff. If they had wanted to work for BT or Crapita they would have applied for a job with them years ago.

To find out more about the council’s TUPE commitments please see the information on the intranet.

To learn more about the TUPE Regulations, please book yourself onto a TUPE workshop for either staff or managers. Both are available over the coming months.

Q4. Will my previous service continue in the new organisation?
A4. Yes, under the TUPE Regulations your service continues post-transfer uninterrupted as if you had not transferred.

Q5. Do fixed term contracts transfer to the new provider?
A5. If a member of staff on a fixed term contract has an end date later than the transfer they will be in-scope to transfer.

Q6. What would the new provider do with the people on fixed term contracts once their contract has ended?
A6. If you have a fixed term contract it would end at its specified date unless the new provider extended it, as would be the case should you have stayed with the council.

Q7. Can the pension scheme be amended after a year, according to TUPE regulations?
A7. Pensions are not protected under the TUPE Regulations but separate to this, the council has committed to your LBB pensions continuing when you transfer to the new provider for the life of the contract.
There are a number of changes being made to the Local Government Pension Scheme by the Government and these will affect members of the LGPS whether they are a contractor or council employee.  If you attended the pensions workshops at the end of last year you will be aware of the changes.

Once working for the new provider, should you wish to apply for promotion, you are likely to be offered the terms and conditions of your new employer. This will be for you to take into consideration as part of your package.  Once you transfer to the new provider, if you move away from working on the Barnet contract this will breach the terms of the LBB Pensions Fund and you will not be entitled to continue in the Barnet LGPS.

Should either of these situations occur an employee’s LGPS pension will be frozen and the new provider will offer their own scheme to the employee.


Q1. Is it likely that our base location will change?
A1. Location will be covered in detail during the second stage of competitive dialogue where the bidders will discuss their proposals to run the services. This will include recommendations on where they may run a service from. The council therefore won’t know for certain where the services will be based until the autumn of 2012 once a preferred bidder has been selected. It would be a good idea to start learning Hindi so you fit in more easily when your job moves to Bangalore.

Q2. Where do either of the bidding companies want to run the revenues and benefits department from?
A2. As mentioned above, the detail of bidders’ solutions will be discussed in the next stage and this will include location. It would be wrong for the council to give any assurances at this stage (they won't be giving one at any stage because EU regulations largely prevent it was the answer volunteered by a Councillor at a committee meeting), as we need to hear what options are on the table. We don’t know yet whether the bidders will wish to move any processes elsewhere or centralise others around a centre of excellence in Barnet.
If there is an intention to change the location of a service this would be referred to in the “measures” letter following contract award. The measures letter is sent from the new employer to the council to explain what, if any, proposed changes it wants to take post-transfer with respect to transferring employees. Consultation on these measures would be following transfer. Remember the Parking contract. Back office is moving to Croydon. Not many staff will want to work there. Perhaps it should be renamed the back-of-beyond office.

Q3. Is it correct that there is no restriction on the location of NSCSO services?
A3. Yes, but the council will evaluate all proposals in terms of the requirements set out in the output specifications and the benefits that it will deliver. It’s worth noting that the evaluation criteria gives a 60% weighting to non-financial benefits. This final line is misleading. It is not worth noting at all. What % weighting is given to location. Probably none at all if the leaked DRS scoring document is a guide.

The council’s core responsibility is to deliver high quality services at good value for Barnet’s residents and taxpayers and we will consider any proposals on their merits in terms of the evaluation criteria for the procurement process – quality of service delivery and value for money will clearly be the key factors. However, bearing in mind that the council is committed to existing local accommodation costs into the medium term, it is unlikely that wholesale relocation will be value for money for the council in the early years of the contract.

Q4. If the preferred bidder decides they want to relocate in the UK (or even abroad) and I am not able to do so for family reasons etc – what happens?
A4. Should there be a need for a service or part of a service to be relocated, the new employer would do so using their relocation policy.
This is likely to specify a time period they believe is deemed reasonable for an employee to travel to and from work. The new provider would be obliged to consult with you and your trade unions on the change, and during this time you will be given the opportunity to inform your employer of your personal circumstances.
It will be for the new provider to give your situation due consideration and inform you of the outcome of their decision. If between you it is decided the new location is not a reasonable change for you, a redundancy process will be entered into, including the opportunity to be considered for redeployment within the new organisation. Move or be made redundant.

The council would expect any new provider to make every effort to redeploy individuals within their organisation before any redundancies would be considered.

Q5. The bidders are massive organisations so will have various departments across the country. What’s the view on having different parts of NSCSO located in different areas?
A5. The council needs to be clear about the outputs, outcomes, quality standards and performance levels that we require, without being prescriptive about how this is achieved. Clearly if any of this is affected by proximity of services to each other, this will become a relevant factor. The bidders can do what they like.

Q6. The bidders will be looking at making savings and cutting costs. How will they do that and will they be looking at relocating staff?
A6. Savings need to made whether the service is externalised or kept in house. Using a large commercial organisation that specialises in this group of services enables costs to be cut through a variety of methods including process redesign, automation, demand management, economies of scale, stronger purchasing power, strong data-led design and performance management. With regard to potential relocation, please see the answer given above. The council spends £900m p.a. so already has economies of scale.

Q7. What is the relationship between change of location and constructive dismissal?
A7. If a change of location is proposed, the employer will follow due process to establish the implications for the employee, as described above. "Due process" does not answer the question. Ask your union rep for a proper answer.

Constructive dismissal is a position where an employee resigns due to their belief that their relationship with their employer has become untenable due to a fundamental breach of their contract of employment.

In either case, consultation with trade unions and staff is required.

Dialogue process

Q1. What is the deadline for the decision on the successful bidder?
A1. The process will finish at the end of the second phase of competitive dialogue, once all aspects of the contract have been finalised to the council’s satisfaction. The current estimate for the preferred bidder decision is Autumn 2012. The new organisation is expected to mobilise in late 2012, and ‘go live’ in early 2013.

Q2. What support has the council had from outside bodies regarding the project as a whole?
A2. Experienced support continues to be provided by consultants involved from Agilisys (technical), Impower (commercial), and legal consultancy from Trowers and Hamlins.

Q3. How can staff ‘feed back’ to the project team after meeting the bidders?
A3. There are a variety of ways staff can feed back to the project following the Meet the Bidders Days. There are your staff group representatives, the NSCSO email address or staff can contact a member of their management team who can feed back to your service lead. They in turn can feed this back to service lead meetings. Or send your worries anonymously to a blogger and they will probably be blogged.

Q4. What would happen if one of the final two bidders backed out?
A4. This is very unlikely as they are both very keen to win. Also they will have invested up to £2m throughout the bidding process. If one did drop out, the decision would be dependent on the stage at which they did so – if sooner rather than later then there might be the option to go back to one of the other original bidders, or if later on in the process then it may be possible to proceed with one bidder only. If there is only one bidder you are opening the safe and inviting them to help themselves.

Q5. What happens if staff cannot make the ‘Meet the Bidder’ sessions due to annual leave – this will be a very popular time for holidays?
A5. The project team are very aware of the desire from staff to meet the bidders and the opportunity to ask questions and start to understand these two organisations.  The Meet the Bidders Days were deliberately scheduled to allow this to happen at the very beginning of the second phase of competitive dialogue.  Once the dates for this phase were set it was important not to clash these sessions with the Easter Holidays. Both bidders are also having two sessions each on two separate days.

Q6. The staff have been informed of the council’s intentions very well, but have the community/residents of Barnet been informed equally well?
A6. Residents are consulted annually via the council’s budget consultation process, see http://www.barnet.gov.uk/budget. Citizens have not been consulted on One Barnet. The topic is banned at Residents Forums.

Q7. How realistic is the timetable for the project?
A7. It is realistic but ambitious. The council needs to try and make it happen within this timeframe and it is possible to do so, but it will only sign a contract when it is ready.

The council has laid out the process to BT and Capita throughout, and Barnet has adhered to the timetable so far.  There may be slight movement if required so the solutions are right for the council.

Q8. How much has this project cost so far?
A8. The current expenditure on the project, up to the end of February 2012, is as follows:
2010/11: £214,143
2011/12: £582,521
Total to date: £796,664
Total budget for the project: £1.654m

The most recent project budget report was published here along with the other One Barnet projects for the Budget and Performance Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 6 December 2011. This report will next be published on 15 March 2012. Although the December report showed an overspend predicted for 2011/12 there is actually due to be an underspend due to reduction in legal work required within this financial year.

Q9. If the contract is exchanged in January 2013, does the standard statutory 90 days consultation apply to TUPE?
A9. There are no set timeframes to inform and consult on a transfer under the TUPE Regulations.  The requirement is to inform and consult at the earliest practicable point. The council will be required to inform staff about the transfer and consult on the measures (known changes) the new provider will be making.

The formal period of inform and consult will take place once the NSCSO contract has been awarded. The council will continue to informally brief staff about the procurement process, competitive dialogue and the transfer until the contract is awarded.

Q10. When do you expect the final decision to be made?
A10. The council expects to close the second stage of dialogue in late summer/early autumn, with a preferred bidder being identified in late autumn, for an early 2013 service commencement.

Service delivery and contract management

Q1. Was there ever the scope to look for a mutual or co-operative partnership?
A1. A mutual or co-operative partnership would not have secured the scale of investment required to transform and ensure the sustainability of these services while reducing cost. Complete rubbish. If the services had been tender4ed individually then experts would have come forward from local companies and in-house who could have raised the much reduced finance for each parcel.

Q2. Is there any possibility that the service provision will be split between different organisations/bidders?
A2. No. The aim is to procure one partner to deliver all the services in scope. Some of which they will be worse at than others.

Q3. How much control will the council have over the investments into IT set to be made by the winning bidder?
A3. The council will work with the partner to make sure that investment builds on the work that has been done already. Bidders have been made aware of the current platforms and projects that are underway at the moment. The partner will be expected to invest in IT infrastructure and technology that will work alongside other systems already in place to enable smooth co-working between the NSCSO and the rest of the organisation. They will pass the bill onto the council. Private companies exist to make a profit. That is the only reason BT & Crapita want this contract; to make money out of the citizens of Barnet. It isn't that they love us and they certainly aren't charities. Mr Mustard's alter ego has a small business. It happens to deal with financial problems, not because he especially likes to see people and companies in straightened circumstances but because he makes money out of it. Simple.

Q4. If BT and Capita fail to deliver a good service, penalties won’t help the service user, and penalties won’t make any difference to BT or Capita because they are such big financially successful companies. How can we assure a high level of service to the public?
A4. Performance deductions are one way to focus the minds of such companies. BT and Capita will be very keen to maintain their reputation so will not want to risk dissatisfied customers. The partners will be specifically required to achieve high levels of customer satisfaction. The street lighting contractor has under-performed and said they cannot sustain the level of deductions being made. The council's response is to re-negotiate the terms instead of sacking the contractor and starting again. There is no confidence that the council will not do the same with these huge corporations whose lawyers will tie the council in knots.

Q5. What are the arrangements for contract management?
A5. The council has extracted a percentage of budget from the baseline to cover the costs of a client function.  The detailed design of this will be worked up in conjunction with the development of the new council structure. The council does not yet know the answer to your question.

Q6. Is there a capping on the fees/charges for Capita/BT on service provision?
A6. Yes, the bidders are required to guarantee core service price, include a cap on profits, and have an open book policy on accounting.

Bidders’ plans

Q1. One of the benefits of the project relates to an investment in IT, but for Revs and Bens, we have or will have delivered all the necessary IT improvements before this contract goes live, so what more can the partner do?
A1. The council has done a significant amount of work on IT, but recognise that Capita and BT would invest in a CRM and customer access capability that goes far beyond what the council can deliver, enabling a single view of the customer that both staff and customers themselves can access, and link up disparate customer processes across the council. The council could keep up with technology if they wanted to.

Q2. Will there be an opportunity to visit the bidders?
A2. Yes, site visits will be arranged at an appropriate stage of the process. It is likely to be a mixture of the Commercial Team and maybe some Service Leads. Check your passport and your vaccinations. Bangalore here we come.

Q3. If there are only a certain number of jobs available, will we have to apply for our own jobs?
A3. The council will be reducing in size in any event, however we are doing what we can to manage this.  For example, there are expected to be less than 20 redundancies in this financial year when the final position is confirmed at the end of March. The council has been focusing on reducing the numbers through removing temporary/agency staff where it can. Mr Mustard hasn't asked about agency staff for a while but let's see, payments to "Agency/Interim Hays" in January 2012 were £510,433 which is the usual ridiculous level for Barnet Council.

Service-specific issues

Q1. Will the ICT staff receive the same letter that was sent out to other departments last year?
A1. Yes, this has been sent out via your management team.

Q2. How is merging and consolidation of customer service functions taking place?
A2. It was agreed that the Customer Services Organisation will be the primary point of contact for customers seeking services from the council, be it by phone, web, e-mail, post or face-to-face. Work is on-going as part of the Customer Services Transformation (under the One Barnet) programme to identify where the approach will provide both better customer service and value for money (sharing infrastructure, more resilience due to ability to cross-train and manage call peaks, application of additional expertise not available within the council).
This is happening for all services across the council – as it is for Revenues and Benefits. This work involves a detailed look at how we currently deliver services, comparing this with best practice elsewhere and looking for improvements. From this work, a report will be produced that will outline the case for change with an implementation plan. In the case of Revenues and Benefits this point has been reached and consultation on this will begin at the end of March/April 2012. This is one of the most bonkers One Barnet ideas. The idea that a generalist can answer complex questions. It is much better to let each department answer its own queries. That was there is expert knowledge, speed of response and accountability.

Q3. What is the business case for proving that BT/Capita can provide a cheaper service than the council, especially as the staff at the council are being told they have the skills the larger organisation might not?
A3. There is a clear fit between what we want NSCSO to achieve and the role of the Corporate Programmes Team. For example, we will want to use the £30m or so capital monies for schools improvements to generate outcomes for Barnet as a whole not simply handing it across to the individual schools to manage for their own individual purposes. The CPT would be an ideal resource to manage this within the objectives set for our delivery partners. The history of the CPT is dire. MetPro, RM Countryside, Iris Gardening, all contractors without contracts under the eye of CPT.

Q4. Is there any more information on internal re-structuring of corporate programmes before being outsourced?
A4. Information about this will be communicated to all staff shortly. As soon as Mr Mustard has it, you will.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

1 comment:

  1. "The council has been focusing on reducing the numbers through removing temporary/agency staff where it can."

    Well, that will clear out senior management, then!


I now moderate comments in the light of the Delfi case. Due to the current high incidence of spam I have had to turn word verification on.